It’s quite an achievement to get this far, with over 500 schools originally competing and only 28 qualifying for the final. Unfortunately we didn’t have a fully-fit team, as Archie Collings (Rb) took a tumble in the Paperchases race the day before and hurt his knee, while Ben Weston (R) was still recovering from a long-term injury and wouldn’t be able to race at his usual electric best.
The nerves built steadily as we watched the three other races on before ours, and warmed up around the edge of the course. It would be 4.35km of twisting, hilly, churned-up mud and grass – some would call this hell, others would call it a perfect cross-country course!
After a long and very fast opening straight, Will Singleton (R) found himself part of the lead group and maintained a good position around 10th. Bradley Keay (R) – fresh from winning the Paperchases the previous day – was a little further back but he looked comfortable and had found the right pace. Tim Strebel (I) was also going well in the middle of the pack, while Ben was ‘doing his thing’ by cruising round, not risking his injury so close to the Africa trip which departed the following Monday. Massimo Wyatt (PH) was towards the back of the pack, with the long term perhaps taking its toll on his legs.
Into the final lap, three runners had pulled away at the front of the race, but Will had managed to keep pace with the chasing pack about twenty seconds further back. These are some of the best runners in the country in his age group and he was holding his own! Bradley too was making good ground, focusing on the legs in front and picking people off one by one. Tim, Ben and Massimo all came through well too.
In a very fast finish, Will was just pipped on the line and had to settle for 9th place, but this is itself a tremendous achievement – the first time we’ve had a runner in the top-ten for seven years! He really is one of the top runners in the country in his age category. Bradley finished in 30th, an excellent position, ahead of Tim in 77th, Ben in 117th and Massimo in 131st.
Overall it was a great team performance and was enough to claim 14th place in the team competition, which given the circumstances is very impressive. It shows the future of running at Shrewsbury is in very safe hands with these talented young men.